Grow Our Own: Creating a Sustainable Midwifery Workforce in Rural and Remote Areas

Published 15 November 2018. Last updated 30 November 2018.

The need for a skilled midwifery workforce is ever increasing within rural and remote Australia. The ‘Grow our Own’ initiative had three goals: to increase the number of midwives within the Western NSW Local Health District (LHD), increase the number of rural and remote midwives, and to increase access to skilled clinicians for rural and remote dwelling women.


To increase the skilled midwifery workforce in rural and remote locations within the Western NSW LHD.


  • Provide local access to skilled midwives.
  • Build a skilled workforce of midwives in rural and remote locations.
  • Improve health outcomes for women and children.
  • Increase access to health education for women and their families.


The Grow Our Own initiative was born from a need to increase the skilled midwifery workforce in rural and remote areas of the Western NSW LHD. With a huge shortage of skilled midwives in rural and remote areas, the sustainability of a midwifery service for women within these areas was being compromised. This meant that an increasing number of women had limited, or no access, to local maternity care.


Midwifery training is traditionally offered through birthing facilities in conjunction with universities. While this approach has its merits, it means that there are few opportunities for clinicians to experience midwifery from a primary health care approach.

The project team identified an opportunity to work creatively and collaboratively to address the gap in training and delivery by offering a student midwifery placement in a non-birthing facility. The idea was brought to life following a significant amount of collaboration with Charles Sturt University, Bourke Health Service, Dubbo, Mudgee and Gosford Health Service, and the Nursing and Midwifery Office at the NSW Ministry of Health.

Establishing the very first student midwifery placement held in a non-birthing facility in Bourke, New South Wales, ticked a number of boxes for the local community. In particular, for women and staff in nearby rural and remote areas, who now have access to greater levels of skilled midwifes. Turning midwifery training on its head, this approach promotes primary health care through a community-focused model that engages rural and remote staff, women, and the local community.


Sustained – The project has been implemented and is sustained in standard business.


  • Planning started in January 2016
  • Key stakeholders engaged March 2016
  • Recruitment occurred September 2016
  • Employment and study started February 2017
  • Completion of study and training February 2018

Implementation sites

Bourke, NSW


  • Nursing and Midwifery Office – Ministry of Health
  • Charles Sturt University


This initiative, the first of its kind in NSW, presented a local solution to the workforce shortage by offering a permanent registered nurse the opportunity to undertake midwifery training in a non-birthing facility. The initiative resulted in the first student midwife working in Bourke for 12 months, followed by the offer of a permanent position as a midwife.

Lessons learnt

We learnt how to be creative to overcoming a long-term workforce issue for rural and remote locations. Increasing the number of skilled midwifes in these areas will result in better health outcomes for women, babies, and the community.


Tammy O’Connor
Clinical Midwifery Consultant
Western NSW Local Health District
Phone: 02 6809 6560 | 0438 130 228


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